Barring unforeseen events, Alex Rios is going to be playing for the Royals this weekend in Chicago. Rios is currently rehabbing. The Royals offense is currently hibernating. Naturally any time you combine the factor of a returning bat and a slumping offense, the excitement is going to build for the returning bat.
Alex Rios is going to save us all. Probably not quite, but he'll be an improvement, and here are some reasons to expect him to help this offense.
Reason #1: The Offense is in a slump.
If anybody tries telling you that the Royals offense isn't slumping and that the starters should just pitch better, please make them wait for 2 minutes as you find this article and tell them that a pseudo-anonymous Internet Man has numbers to make the case for a slump. The offense is in a bit of a slump. A funk. A bad time. Nathan Eovaldi and Adam Warren aren't Cy Young candidates and this offense made them look great.
This slump didn't start on Sunday v. Michael Wacha either. Since May 16th, 2015, the Royals offense as a unit has hit 240/278/340. The Royals offense hasn't had more than 11 hits or more than 3 extra base hits in their last 10 games and has been held below 10 hits in 8 of 10 games. The Royals have drawn 2 or fewer walks in 8 of their last 10 games.
If you want to point fingers at specific guys for this slump, here's a chart.
|Last 10 games||G||AB||R||H||2B||3B||HR||BB||SO||GDP||HBP||BA||OBP||SLG||OPS|
The order starts with the leadoff stylings of Alcides Escobar. Escobar hit his first low point back in late April, before going 12 for 31 over a week coming off of the Concussion DL. He followed that up with 8 hits in his last 43 at-bats (the 10 games here, plus the Friday game before that).
Moustakas has hit pretty well despite being surrounded in the lineup by melting snowmen. Gonna be interesting to see if they start experimenting with Moustakas in a new spot in the order.
Cain is being out-OPSed by Omar Infante over this stretch. Cain is hitting 246/280/314 in his last 125 plate appearances. Good for 29 hits in 118 at-bats, with 5 extra base hits (3 doubles, a triple, a homer), 5 walks, and 26 strikeouts. The Royals have seen their regular #3 hitter knock in 7 runs in his last 125 PA. If you're into that kind of stat. Getting Alcides Escobar out of leadoff or getting Omar Infante to a surgeon is a cause celebre for some, but Lorenzo Cain hitting 3rd seems to be the opposite of a good idea in regards to getting an order producing. Cain has been sort of a tweener in the order, he has at least 200 (but no more than 350 plate appearances) in 5 of 9 order spots. Most of his time as a hitter has been spent between 5th and 7th in the order and he might be writing a ticket back to that area of the order with recent production.
Hosmer has been ice cold overall since the homer in Texas. Although to be fair to Hosmer, he just got out of 3 games in the notoriously hard-on-lefties Yankee Stadium. It's fair to say the offense is a lot quieter if a Hosmer isn't hitting.
Kendrys Morales has been the best hitter in the lineup recently. He's stuck in-between a recently slumping Hosmer and a slumping Gordon. That could explain how Kendrys is the only Royals hitter with more than 2 walks in the last 10 games.
Alex Gordon is either red hot or ice cold. He probably should be hitting higher than 6th. But wait until his bat heats up again to make that argument.
Salvador Perez has not sucked lately. That might fly under a radar. There's a risk that if Salvy keeps hitting baseballs, he could actually hit higher in the order. That could go well, or go badly. Putting the load of a middle of the order spot on Sal as he catches 200 regular season games could be overdoing it.
Are we sure that Omar Infante isn't an advanced zombie that plays baseball instead of trying to munch on people's brains? Omar has played 30 consecutive games for the Royals. Meanwhile, Christian Colon put together a good hitting line as a substitute for Moustakas/Escobar. 30 consecutive games.
Paulo Orlando has put together some good hitting games lately, but that may not boost RF hitting enough for the sake of discussion. More on that in a moment.
So, the offense is cold right now. It's a late May tradition, as old as firing your hitting coach on the last Thursday in May. You can see the recent deadspots all over the order. It's not hard to see why this offense hasn't produced many runs.
Reason #2: Dyson and Orlando have hit poorly as right-field replacements
As right-fielders, Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando are hitting a combined 230/262/324 as replacements for Alex Rios. That's an Omar Infante level of production, while Omar Infante is playing every day. Alex Rios has had an occasional bad season, but Rios has managed to post an OPS above .600 in every major league season.
The upside to Dyson/Orlando is that they graded out pretty solidly on defense (Dyson at 0.9 UZR in 106 innings, Orlando at 2.5 UZR in 236 2/3 innings). Orlando's UZR/150 in RF is 24.5 and Dyson's is 8.7. Dyson doesn't rate out as well in limited RF time as he does in CF. Orlando's rating is really pretty good. Rios probably isn't going to match either mark upon his return, unless he spent his DL stint becoming really really fast. But hopefully the improvement in hitting can make up for some of that drop in defense.
You all can come to your own conclusions on how high one's UZR has to be to make up for OPSing around .585 for a period of 146 PAs.
If Orlando and Dyson had the same amount of AAA options, Dyson would be going down and Orlando would be staying up. But, Dyson doesn't have options to AAA (I didn't remember that Dyson got put on the 40 man roster in November 2009), and Orlando does. The Royals wring their hands about losing guys on waivers a lot and most of the time nothing happens. In Dyson's case, someone probably has a need for a 4th outfielder that can run.
Reason #3: You want to keep voting for Alex Rios for the All-Star Game without guilt
Alex Rios' 6th place standing in All-Star voting is less significant than some make of it. Rios is closer to 12th place than 3rd place.
But my case for voting for Alex Rios is as follows: why chance having a non-Royal outfielder take a lead over Alex Gordon? Trout is getting in, Cain is getting in unless they disqualify 1/3rd of his total, the battle is for the 3rd spot, and votes for a non-Cain/Gordon/Rios ticket risk your non-Rios vote overtaking Gordon. Alex Rios is the Bandit from Smokey and the Bandit, distracting Burford T. Justice from realizing that Alex Gordon is transporting Coors to Georgia. Think about it. Don't chance Adam Jones moving ahead of Alex Gordon, vote for Cain, Gordon and
The Bandit Alex Rios for the All-Star Game.
Plus, making various outrage merchants unhappy about Rios' place in the ASG voting is kinda fun.
So there's some reasons for excitement. The following are two reasons for caution.
Caution Reason #1: Alex Rios is coming off of a hand injury
The hand injury is on his bottom (left) hand. Put your hands on a bat (if possible) in a RH stance and remember that Rios base hand on a RH swing is coming off of that injury. Players coming off of hand injuries still need some time to get a consistent comfortable swing going. If Alex Rios is slow coming out of the gate, don't freak out on your housepets.
Caution Reason #2: Rios' return isn't going to radically shuffle the batting order
The return of Rios doesn't mean that Alcides is gonna stop batting leadoff, doesn't mean that Cain is dropping from the 3 spot in most scenarios. Rios is likely batting 6th or 7th this weekend in Chicago and is going to bat 7th or 8th to start in AL cities. I can't tell you if Rios is getting slotted in front of Perez or behind Perez. But I'd guess Omar Infante is hitting 9th as a result of Alex Rios' return.
If Rios is a productive hitter in June, Ned could be justified in putting Rios in the 3 hole instead of Cain (something that probably would have happened already if Rios were healthy and hitting). But Alex Rios isn't going to save the world this weekend. But he should be an improvement for an offense that needs another bat that is going to be good at hitting.
In conclusion, the tepid flaccid incontinent lousy bad offense of the last 10 games is going to get better soon. Mostly because even average offenses like the Royals aren't going to be this bad for long stretches of time. Alex Rios could have a role in making that happen. He might not. We'll see.